Welsh Bardic Verse Lesson 10

Lesson 10

Cyhydedd Fer


(XIV) Cyhydedd Fer: Now that you have internalized the rhythm of nines from cyhydedd naw ban couplets, it is time to break the rhythm.  An integral building block of some awdlau are couplets with an even beat.  This calls for the cyhydedd fer, or “short center”.  These eight syllable couplets may form long chains themselves, or be combined with other awdl measures.


Driving along in an even rhythm (cyhydedd fer), as in march time or a harp air, as well as stepping through the odd rhythm (cyhydedd naw ban), as in a jig or a waltz, allows the bard dynamic range.  Employ this to imitate the rhythms of real life.  Passing trains, trotting horses, yelling workmen, surging waves … life itself may be suggested in the rhythmic choices of the poet.


The cyhydedd fer measure is used extensively in The Book of Taliesin, an amazingly influential collection of poems about an ancient shape-shifting poet of power.  Taliesin peers from time in this early tale of wonder and magic.  The manuscript comes from the thirteenth century, but the poems appear much older.  It is possible that they come from as far back as the ninth century.


I find it deeply satisfying to write in such an ancient metrical unit. It has enjoyed an unbroken popularity in Wales for a millennium!  The following snippet is my example:




  Bard of broadest reputation—

  Spark across the dark duration!


       (Harp Strings p. 3)


     Cynghanedd was far from standardized in the ninth century, but it has become standard practice ever since to have some in every other line.  Many adjudicators will look for that.